Caveman Diet


by Elmer M. Cranton, M.D. see

This diet can be used in two ways but only by those really motivated to get well!

1) To help with a diagnosis of suspected food allergies: Adhere strictly to this diet for at least a month and observe whether any symptoms of illness, skin rash, fatigue, congestion, digestive tract problems, joint pain, discomfort, etc., improve at the end of that time. Suspect foods and beverages that were eliminated. These can then be added back one at a time, as described below, to confirm a diagnosis of food allergy. This process may need to be repeated if in doubt, and it is sometimes necessary to remain on the diet for more than a month to obtain greater relief of symptoms. A daily diary of symptoms and potentially allergic exposures is helpful. Keep in mind that food allergies are most often of the delayed type, persisting for some time after the allergic substance has been eliminated and recurring only after repeated daily exposures, once symptoms have improved.

2) To relieve stress on the immune system: By reducing stress on the immune system for a period of several months, intolerance to previously offending foods and beverages often disappears. This period of rest can give the immune system time to recover its tolerance to some, if not all, previously reactive foods. Previously bothersome foods may once again be tolerated in moderation, especially when not consumed frequently. With this goal in mind, the diet can be followed strictly for three months. Yeast in the body, mainly in the colon, also stress the immune system and increase the severity of food allergies and chemical sensitivity. If yeast are eliminated with anti-fungal medication, previously allergic foods can often be better tolerated. Fixed allergies to gluten containing grains (such as wheat) and dairy products is common, however, and reactions to those foods may persist throughout life, fluctuating in sensitivity from time to time. Viral infections and other illnesses can reactivate food allergies.

This food program is sometimes called the “Cave Man Diet” or the “Rare Food Diet.” It avoids commonly eaten foods. Allergy is usually the result of repeated exposures to a specific substance or food. The more often the exposure, the more likely it is to provoke an allergic response. For unknown reasons, some foods are tend to be much more allergic than others. This diet eliminates the most common food allergens, including most foods that are consumed frequently by people living in industrialized western countries. This regimen closely resembles the diet of a stone-age hunter-gatherer.

Because the immune system is more likely to be sensitized to foods eaten frequently in the past, repeated exposure can lead to sensitization and resensitization. Conversely, foods that are not commonly eaten are less likely to cause adverse reactions””another term for allergy. Unless all sensitizing foods are eliminated during the same period of time, for a month or more, there may not be enough time for symptoms to clear. Multiple allergies are additive. Eliminating only one or a few of the sensitizing substances may not be adequate to see improvement, and the diagnosis will be missed. It is necessary to be very strict in following the dietary instructions below. Adverse reactions to foods and drinks are often totally unsuspected and are very common. Unfortunately, there are not any reliable laboratory tests for this type of allergy.

The only way to be absolutely sure of the diagnosis is to follow such a program of elimination and provocation. Blood and skin testing may sometimes help, but they are expensive and are not reliable to delayed-onset diagnose food allergies or chemical sensitivities. Although some such tests are marketed by clinics and laboratories, I have found the rate of false positive and false negative results to approach 50%. Even with testing, it is still necessary to eliminate all (or most of) the offending foods for 30 days or more to confirm the results. Then to provoke symptoms by adding them back. It would be nice if there were an easier method. But I have not found one. The program described here is not only most accurate, it costs nothing other than time and inconvenience. There is no other way to be sure. If you do not eliminate all or most of the reactive allergens at the same time, symptoms may not resolve and you will have wasted your time by an improper attempt using this self-administered test.

Some foods, such as grains and milk products, are much more sensitizing. It is common for chronic fatigue, multiple allergies, chemical sensitivities, arthritis, and many other non-specific symptoms to be related, at least partially, to diet. These instructions will allow you to substitute highly nutritious meals consisting of foods you rarely eat. You may not like it, but you will not be deprived of any important nutrients. If symptoms improve and if you feel better on this diet, it means that something you eat or drink on a regular basis is either causing or contributing to the severity of symptoms. Chemical fumes, perfumes, pollutants, exhaust fumes and fumes things in the air you breathe can act in the same way.

It has been said that dietary carbohydrates cause yeast to multiply in the body causing symptoms. While this may be a part of what happens with high intake of sugar and simple carbohydrates, milk protein, wheat, corn and other starchy grains are highly sensitizing to the immune system, unrelated to their carbohydrate content. Grains are grasses and it is well known that grass pollens are the most common cause of nasal allergy and hay fever. The same applies to foods in the grass family. For unknown reasons, milk and dairy products are also highly sensitizing. Although lactose intolerance is also common, food allergy is usually caused by food-specific proteins, not lactose.

Although chronic symptoms are often blamed on Candida or yeast, there are usually many other factors involved. Yeast can be highly stressful to the immune system and can greatly increase the severity of food allergies and chemical sensitivities. It is uncommon, however, for yeast to be the only, or even the most important cause of symptoms. Yeast can contribute to allergic symptoms after a course of antibiotics, or following excessive intake of sugar””including large servings of fruit or juice. Treating only the yeast, however, does not usually bring about lasting or full improvement.

When this diet is used as a diagnostic test, you should follow it very strictly for at least a month while keeping a daily symptom and diet diary. At the end of the test period, note any symptoms of ill health that have improved. If improvement occurs, you probably have food allergies””and usually chemical sensitivities as well. If in doubt, the test can be repeated several times to confirm those observations. Wait for a month or two between test periods, while consuming your customary foods and beverages.

You may experience withdrawal symptoms and strong cravings during the first week or two on the diet. Paradoxically, withdrawal and cravings are also symptoms of food allergy. After a few weeks of elimination, cravings for the offending foods will disappear. Cravings are not related to nutritional factors. Foods allowed on this diet are highly nutritious, although inconvenient, and this diet is fully adequate to support good health.

This dietary elimination program will help to uncover what you may be reacting to, often without suspecting it. Favorite foods that you think are needed for wellbeing may surprisingly be causing symptoms of illness. After a period of avoidance, the immune system can develop tolerance to previously reactive foods. Throughout life, this type of food program can help to develop a long-term food plan that minimizes symptoms””with periodic modification and least disruption to lifestyle.

By eliminating yeast from the body with antifungal medicines and remaining on this diet for several months, previously reactive foods may subsequently be tolerated. (Although allergies to wheat, corn, milk, chocolate, cola, sugar and chemical additives may remain fixed, if used more than occasionally. An effective program is to take medications to reduce the yeast burden in the body while following this diet, and then continue on the diet for an additional month after those medications are stopped. That will allow the immune system to rest and recover some reserve. Reducing yeast lowers a fixed cause of immune stress, allowing more reserve and better tolerance for other things. Eliminated foods can subsequently be added back, one at a time, carefully observing for recurrence of allergic symptoms. Gluten grains (especially wheat), corn, and dairy products should be withheld until last, because long-term fixed allergies to those items are common.

It is not necessary to eat everything allowed, only to avoid everything not allowed. In addition to the instructions below, avoid anything that you previously ate more than once each week, even if otherwise allowed. For example, if you crave bananas and eat them frequently, eliminate them. And if you snack regularly on almonds, eliminate them too. If you suspect sensitivity to any of the allowed foods, eliminate those as well. Every person is different and there is a wide variability in tolerance.

Observe carefully for changes in nasal or lung congestion, mucous, fatigue, foggy thinking, digestive disorders, constipation/diarrhea, bloating, gas, fluid retention, pain, mood swings, joint aches, urinary problems, drowsiness after meals, and other symptoms that can be caused by unsuspected food allergies.

Meal suggestions and allowed foods are listed below. Do not become discouraged. This is not a lifetime program. It is temporary, as an aid to your diagnosis and recovery. If you discover food allergies that persist, you will probably choose to avoid those foods whenever possible. Now let’s see what you can eat. After you get relief, you then have the rest of your life for provoking and elimination, to determine what things you can eat and drink and how often without symptoms. When you change your diet, you may eventually develop new sensitivities. Once you learn the principles and procedure for diagnosis, this becomes a do-it-yourself program. These principles are not taught in medical schools, so do not be surprised if you health care providers do not understand this process. They may even try to discredit what you experience.

Allowed Foods That You Can Eat


Meat and seafood: Use only fresh or fresh frozen lamb (lamb imported from New Zealand or Australia contains less chemicals and antibiotic residues). Avoid beef, chicken, and pork. Avoid farmed-grown fish or shrimp (most of the shrimp now available are farmed in Asia). Avoid processed meats, cold cuts, hot dogs, sausage, etc., which have many added ingredients including sugar, starch, colorings, preservatives, and chemicals. Any type of wild game is acceptable. Deep-water ocean fish such as orange roughy, halibut, tuna, and wild salmon are allowed. All salmon from Alaska is wild. Choices can include lamb, crab, lobster, oysters, deer, rabbit, duck, goose, clams, pheasant, frog legs, quail, scallops, and Cornish game hen. Turkey is allowable if it is fresh, has not been injected or pre-basted with “butterball” chemicals, is not ground, pressed, or otherwise processed, and has no additives.

You may eat most vegetables except you must avoid corn, white potato, tomato, peas, beans and other legumes. You may eat most fruits except apples and citrus. Lemon and lime are usually tolerated to enhance flavor. Eat only small fruit servings of fresh, unprocessed fruit, and do not drink fruit juice, except in very small amounts.

You may drink bottled mineral water, spring water, water filtered thorough a purifier, or distilled water. Bottled water is usually pure enough, if you are sure of the source. Water bottled in plastic containers may contain chemical plasticizers that leach from the container. Inexpensive activated charcoal filters can effectively remove chemical residues from drinking water.

You can eat nuts, including filberts (hazel nuts), almonds, or pecans. Use fresh cracked or nuts still in the shell, not roasted, or otherwise treated. (Peanuts are not nuts despite their name. They are actually legumes. Avoid peanuts.)

You may use safflower oil, sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, sesame oil and extra virgin olive oil. Use only cold pressed oils with no additives, purchased from a natural food source.

You may eat sweet potatoes, yams, cabbage, carrots, squash (many varieties), asparagus, cauliflower, avocados, celery, garlic, okra, radishes, greens (beet, mustard, spinach, collards, etc.), cucumbers, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, kale, avocado, broccoli, parsnips, green peppers (not hot pepper or peppery spices), rutabaga, leek, and turnips. Because wheat, corn, rice, rye, oats, barley, buckwheat, millet, and other grains are common causes of allergy, and because all grains belong to related food families, avoid grains while on this diet. This means you must avoid all breads and other foods made with any kind of flour. Although buckwheat, amaranth, milo and quinoa do not belong to the grain family, many grain sensitive people react to those grain substitutes and they should also be avoided. There is no way to make a sandwich, so get used to it.

You may eat fresh or fresh frozen fruits (not fruits dried in sugar or packed in sugar or syrup), including bananas, grapes, peaches, pears, pineapple, kiwi, papaya, mangos, melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, Crenshaw), cherries, apricots, pomegranates, mangos, coconuts, plums, persimmons, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, or loganberries. Eat only small servings of fruit, as fruits contain lots of natural sugar. Fruit canned in its own juice without sugar or additives are allowed. Avoid fruit juice except in small amounts.

For condiments, you may use honey in very small amounts as a sweetener. Stevia is highly recommended as a natural sweetener. (Avoid NutraSweet®, Equal®, aspartame and saccharine, which are artificial chemical sweeteners.) Sea salt is allowed. The allowed oils can be used for cooking and on salads. Chopped nuts (of allowed types), ginger, garlic, cilantro, almond butter, and sesame butter are allowed. Many of the nut butters are processed in the same equipment that makes peanut butter, so read the label for warnings about small amounts of potential allergens.

Foods You Must Strictly Avoid

Avoid milk, cheese, yogurt, egg, all grains, corn, wheat, rye, oats, barley, rice, sugar, oranges, grapefruit, legumes, beans, peas, peanuts, beef, chicken, pork, apple, white potato, food colorings, chemical additives, emulsifiers, yeast, preservatives, chocolate, cola, processed and packaged foods, coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages. Avoid chemical exposures. Read all labels carefully. Do not breathe tobacco smoke, exhaust fumes, solvent fumes, chemical fumes, or perfumes. Use scent-free laundry and house cleaning products that have no chemical odor. Use only hypoallergenic, scent-free toiletries and cosmetics. Avoid tobacco in any form. Avoid areas of fabric stores, shoe stores, shopping malls, and the cleaning and cosmetic areas at the supermarket, which can expose you to high concentrations of chemical fumes and scents. Avoid newly installed carpets and newly painted or refinished housing and office space, where solvents and fumes outgas into the air. Furniture polish and many cleaning products release potentially toxic fumes.

Milk and milk-containing foods: Avoid milk and dairy products entirely, including cheese, butter, ice cream, margarine, yogurt, cream soups, breads, crackers, cookies, cakes, candies, luncheon meats, and other manufactured or processed foods. Casein and lactalbumin are other names for milk protein. Read all labels carefully.

Egg-containing foods: Avoid eggs or any foods containing egg, including custards, cakes, cookies, ice cream, pies, macaroni, salad dressings, noodles, pancake mixes, and all other manufactured or processed foods.

Grain-containing foods: Avoid wheat, corn, rye, barley, rice, and all grains and foods containing grains. This includes all commercial breads, cookies, crackers, cereals, batters, luncheon meats, pancake mixes, candies and a wide variety of other packaged and processed foods.

Citrus: Avoid orange, grapefruit, and foods containing those citrus fruits.

Sugar-containing foods: Avoid cane sugar, beet sugar, corn sugar, fructose, glucose, and brown sugar””including candies, cakes, sugar-coated cereals, ice cream, carbonated beverages, and the wide spectrum of processed and packaged foods which contain sugar. Sugar is hidden in dozens of foods including catsup, pickles, relishe, and salad dressings. Avoid artificially sweetened food or drinks that contain NutraSweet®, Equal® or aspartame. A very small amount of honey is allowed, but sweets are very addicting and it is best to go through a total withdrawal. Stevia is best tolerated as a sweetener.

Legumes: Avoid peanuts, beans and peas of all kinds, including string beans, lima beans, soy beans, baked beans, green peas, field peas, black-eyed peas, and vegetable gums. Soy bean protein (“textured protein”) is hidden in a variety of manufactured foods. Read labels carefully.

Chocolate & Cola-containing foods: Avoid chocolate and cola drinks of all kinds, including diet cola. Avoid all sweets, candies and foods to which chocolate has been added.

Meats: Avoid all forms of beef, pork and chicken, including luncheon meats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage and hamburger. Avoid all cold cuts. Avoid tenderized, spiced, processed or otherwise treated meat products of any kind. Most shrimp now sold in the USA is farmed in Asia and raised on human waste, antibiotics, etc.)

Fruits & Vegetables: Avoid white potatoes (even if the outside skin is red), French fried potatoes, potato chips and any food containing potato. Avoid tomato, corn, and rice. Avoid fresh, frozen or dried apples, oranges, and foods containing apple or citrus flavoring (which is often an artificial chemical). Avoid any other fruit or vegetable that was regularly eaten more often than once each week in the past.

Yeast-containing foods: Avoid breads, wine, vinegar, mushrooms, and dried fruits. Use only vitamins that are formulated to be yeast-free and hypoallergenic, without chemical additives or preservatives.

Coffee, tea & alcohol: Avoid all coffee and tea products (including instant and caffeine free). Also avoid herbal teas and all alcoholic beverages. Drink pure water, it’s good for you. Carbonated water, unsweetened but with all natural fruit flavor is acceptable.

Condiments: Avoid black, Cayenne. and any kind of hot pepper. Avoid onion, NutraSweet®, Equal® and aspartame, which are artificial chemical sweeteners. Beware of many spices that are mixtures of both labeled and unlabeled ingredients. Stevia as a sweetener is allowed, if a pure extract.


The following are only a few suggestions, to be used as a starting point. Be creative and vary the allowed foods, while avoiding foods that are not allowed. Read over this whole document very closely and then use all of the information to create your own menus.

Food Suggestions For Breakfast: Sweet potato slices, yams, sliced bananas, strawberries, melon, allowed nuts, fresh pineapple slices (or canned in their own juice), sprinkle bananas with chopped fresh cracked pecans, almonds or other allowed nuts, fresh melon, mineral water, fresh fish baked or broiled, lamb patty, olive oil, shredded coconut, sea salt.

Foods You Might Eat For Lunch: Lamb patty, carrots, any allowed vegetable, pears, banana coated with ground nuts or almond butter, kiwi fruit, grapes, fresh almonds, slices of lamb, fish, sweet potato slices, salad with oil, vegetables and chopped celery, cabbage (raw or steamed), pear, broiled snapper, almonds.

Foods You Might Eat For Supper: Sweet potato, yam, lamb, any allowed meat, avocado, steamed carrots, any allowed vegetable, fresh fruit with shredded coconut, asparagus, almonds, baked fish, broccoli, banana, spinach, baked squash, green peppers, fresh raspberries or strawberries, roast duckling, Brussels sprouts, celery or carrot sticks, Cornish game hen, cauliflower, sea salt, chopped almonds or pecans, baked or broiled fish. Buy imported Australian or New Zealand leg of lamb, slice it into lamb steaks or cubes, and freeze meal-size portions””trimming off the excess fat.

Snacks: Pineapple slices, peaches, grapes, raw vegetables, allowed nuts, celery sticks stuffed with almond or sesame butter, banana coated with crushed nuts, sardines packed in olive oil.

If weight loss is desired, this diet can be very helpful by reducing cravings for reactive and addictive foods that have been eliminated””while at the same time providing good nutrition. If weight loss is not desired, or if weight is too low and gain is desired, use more of the calorie-dense oily foods such as avocados, nuts, almond butter, olive oil, etc. Eat lamb without trimming as much of the fat.

Organic foods are always preferable, but may not be available””and the added expense may be prohibitive. By carefully reading all labels, it is possible to achieve a relatively healthy diet, free of most chemicals and contaminants.

After several months, after symptoms have improved for a time, foods can be added are added back. Add back only one new food every 3 to 4 days, in pure form, and eat that new food at least twice each day during the test period. Butter is the one dairy product that is better tolerated, because it is pure fat, without any protein. The protein part of foods is most allergenic. Margarine has milk both protein and chemicals added, and is never preferred. Of all the grains, long grain brown rice is least likely to cause problems (S&W Brand). If cooked rice is sticky, it contains gluten-like material that tends to be more allergic. If the cooked grains of rice do not stick together, they are less allergic. Since gluten is what makes almost all bread, crackers, chips, dough, etc., hold together, some sensitive people choose to go through life without that type of food. Although corn is said to be “gluten free,” experience indicates that grain-allergic patients often do not usually tolerate it well.

Shopping tips:

From the supermarket:

1. Begin by stocking up on allowed fresh fruits and vegetables that you do not usually eat, such as asparagus, avocados, mangos, pears, pineapple, strawberries, yams and sweet potatoes, etc.

2. Buy lamb and fresh fish (not farm raised), Avoid foods treated with sulfites and other chemicals (Fresh fish and shrimp are sometimes treated with sulfites right on the boat when caught to retard spoilage). Orange roughy is the least contaminated fish and is usually in the super-market freezer if you ask for it. Halibut is also good.

3. Buy allowed nuts in the shell (or fresh shelled with no processing) including almonds, coconut and hazel nuts, pecans.

4. Pure water (pure spring water, distilled water, mineral water bottled in glass, or filtered water). Most public drinking water sources are chemically treated and contaminated. Filters can be purchased to purify water as it comes from your tap, and this is best. An activated charcoal filter will remove most chemical residues.

From the health food store:

1. Cold pressed sunflower, safflower, sesame, extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed, oils.

2. Nuts in the shell, or fresh cracked without additives.

3. Almond and sesame butter (read the labels to be sure there is no mention of peanut contamination).

More Shopping Tips

1. Eat mainly fresh or fresh-frozen foods. Although organically grown foods, grown without chemicals, sprays or insecticides are preferable, they are often expensive and not readily available. You cannot always believe the claims. Fresh produce and meat from your local supermarket will usually suffice.

2. Avoid most canned, packaged, processed or chemically-contaminated foods. READ LABELS.

3. Avoid processed, smoked or cured meats, such as salami, wieners, bacon, sausage, hotdogs, etc., since they contain starches, fillers, milk, corn, sugar, food coloring and other additives.

4. If you use canned or packaged food, read the labels carefully to be sure that it is a pure food with nothing added.

5. Avoid canned fruits packed in syrup because they contain large amounts of cane or corn sugar. Instead, buy fruits fresh, fresh frozen or packed water in their own juices. Check labels to make sure they do not contain added sugar. They sometimes lie. For example, dried fruit might be first purchased by the packager already saturated with dried sugar. Because the packager does not then add any sugar, they can deceptively put “no sugar added” on the label.

6. Some sardines and other fish are canned in vegetable oil. Since the oil may be of an unknown source, buy fish fresh, packed in water, in its own oil or in olive oil. Sardines packed in olive oil or sardine oil make a good snack. Tuna packed in spring water is acceptable.

7. Most commercially available nuts are roasted in vegetable oil and contain additives. They are sometimes rolled in brewers yeast or corn starch to prevent them from sticking together. Accordingly, buy nuts in the shell, or freshly shelled nuts which you know have not been dusted with a starch or otherwise treated (usually available from health food stores).

8. Most commercially available turkeys are injected with chemicals and are basted with milk, corn starch and tenderizers, etc. Turkey rolls and processed turkey meat are also chemically treated, unless the label specifically states otherwise. Avoid them and buy only fresh turkey from known sources. The label will usually state if a fresh turkey has not been treated.

9. Use safflower, sunflower, sesame, or extra virgin olive oil in cooking and for salad dressings.

10. You can use 100% pure Carob powder as a substitute for chocolate. (Make sure it does not contain sugar or starch.)

11. Buy pure sea salt, since commercial salt often contains corn starch and chemicals. Don’t get the kind that states on the label that it “pours when it rains.” That means chemicals have been added.

12. Pure garlic powder may be tolerated, unless garlic was used frequently in the past.

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